HARARE – A rank marshal who seized control of a loading bay in Harare’s busy Market Square bus terminus before collecting unsanctioned daily loading fees from a bus operator running into a cumulative US$5,000 over 19 months, has been dragged to court charged with extortion.

The suspect is Cuthbert Chamwakaona, aged 39.

Chamwakaona appeared before Harare magistrate Appolonia Marutya who granted him US$100 bail.

According to prosecutors, “from September 2022 to date and at Market Square Rank, the complainant Jephat Motsi, a driver started operating at that site plying Buririro 4 and 5 driving a commuter omnibus GHACO fleet number 285.”

Chamwakaona, added the state, acting in connivance with one Maricho who is still at large and Nelson Makonese, who is already on remand, declared that they were owners of the rank.

It is alleged that the trio would exert illegitimate pressure on Motsi by demanding US$2 per every trip.

They would declare he would not ferry passengers unless they were paid the monies they demanded.

Motsi operated at the rank for a continuous period of 19 months.

Every month, it is further alleged, he worked for an average of 26 days.

Per day he had an average of five trips hence he lost a total of US$4,940.

Motsi, through his association Greater Harare Association of Commuter Omnibus Operators (GHACO), filed a police report, leading to the arrest of the Makonese and Chamwakaona.

Harare bus termini are full of youths who terrorise operators and commuters alike through demanding payments for use of the public facility.

All the money collected goes into individuals’ pockets with local authorities not benefitting from the illicit levies.

It has been difficult for the police and opposition led councils to drive the youths out of the facilities as they use their support for the ruling Zanu PF party as shields.